Death by Overwork (or Stress at Work)

 In Stress at Work

High stress levels, and in particular stress at work can pretty much ruin your health – you could smoke more, take less exercise, eat more (increasing your weight) and generally have less energy; all of which could result in a higher risk of having a heart attack and/or stroke plus lots of other nasty things happen to you that we really don’t need to go into right now.

But the effects of stress in the workplace don’t stop there.

In Japan for instance, physicians have a diagnosis that is called “karoshi”.

First reported and identified in 1969, Karoshi can be translated literally to “death by overwork”, it refers to the sudden death of an employee without any previous sign of illness; it’s been identified that Karoshi is usually from a stroke or heart attack and is more likely to be due to stress at work.

In the 1980’s numerous high-ranking business executives in Japan died suddenly without any other signs of illness, this was picked up by the media as a new phenomenon and named Karoshi, the problem was so severe that in the late 1980’s the Japanese government started recording these stress related deaths, and providing statistics on them.

In Japan (as in the UK) many employees are willing to work over their contracted hours for no additional pay, and they often have the youth culture where younger co-workers are known to quit their job if it is too stressful which places more pressure (and stress) on other employees; they even count Karoshi as a separate death category now.

Corporations in Japan now take the mental health (and workplace stress) of their employees seriously and some of their larger businesses have taken action; Toyota for example limit employee overtime to 360 hours a year; Nissan make working from home easier and make it easier for employees to look after children and elderly relatives; Mitsubishi Bank allow employees to go home up to three hours early to care for children or elderly relatives; some businesses even have automated PA system messages after 7pm reminding workers the importance of rest and suggesting that they go home.

In the UK we have just as many deaths from stress at work illness, but we simply don’t hear about it in the same way – so we are really working ourselves to death but as a nation we don’t like to make a fuss when we are feeling stressed at work as we believe that it’s normal; it isn’t and stress needs to be taken seriously by both employers and employees.

More information can be found on our Stress at Work page.

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